Catch up blog

As the title suggests, this blog is long over due. It isn’t because I haven’t been training or racing, it’s just because I’ve been busy. And as the time since my last blog increased, I became more daunted with writing another.

In September I returned to Cambridge to do the fourth and final year of my engineering degree. I’ve enjoyed going back to my favourite training locations around there, but I do miss hilly runs! Fitting in training with studying is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, but I’ve been happy with how it’s all been fitting together. I had a great few months of training in the autumn, and was excited for the start of the race season.

The new uni gym - which has been fun to train in

The new uni gym – which has been fun to train in

Unfortunately Central Europe has been a bit short of snow this winter. The first races I planned to do once term had finished were OPA (European cup) races in Italy. Unfortunately these were cancelled due to zero snow, so instead I race La Sgambeda, a 42km skate marathon, which was nearby, but at 1800m altitude so there was snow. It was really fun, and with hundreds of Italians on the tracks cheering it was a great atmosphere. Unfortunately my skis weren’t as fast as those of the people around me, so my time wasn’t as fast as I would have liked, but I felt I skied strongly and was happy with the race.

During La Sgambeda race

During La Sgambeda race

A sweet, but slightly creepy, present from a waiter in Livigno!

A sweet, but slightly creepy, present from a waiter at a restaurant in Livigno!

The following weekend I raced 3 OPA races in Austria. The venue was changed, and all races were held on a 2.5km loop of artificial snow (or more accurately slush!). With about 450 people racing across all age groups the track conditions deteriorated quickly and it was tough going. I had a decent sprint, but unfortunately just missed out on qualifying for the quarter finals. My focus was on the distance races, and I had a good 5km classic (until I managed to fall over), and a difficult 5km skate as the track had turned to ice and my balance wasn’t quite up to scratch. There were a good number of British youth and junior skiers racing at these races, so it was fun to catch up with them and to see how much they’ve improved recently.

Starting the sprint in Hochfilzen.  Not really much snow!

Starting the sprint in Hochfilzen. Not really much snow around!

For the first time in a long time I spent Christmas at home with my family in the UK. I had a lot of fun, and we even got a bit of snow of our own on Boxing Day!

Shortly after Christmas I headed to Falun, Sweden, to get a good 10 day spell of training in before racing in a Scandinavian cup there. We had pretty much every weather condition possible whilst we were there, so the skiing conditions varied a lot – from amazing to quite grim!

Ice skating on a frozen lake in Falun - it was amazing! I was quite nervous about falling over and falling in. Luckily I didn't do either!

Ice skating on a frozen lake in Falun – it was amazing! I was quite nervous about falling over and falling in. Luckily I didn’t do either!

The level of the competition at the Scandinavian cup was tough. The races were held at the same venue as this years world championships, so many teams (including the Norwegian and Swedish) were using the event as their selection races. My best race of the weekend was the 7.5+7.5km skiathlon. Over 30cm of snow fell the previous afternoon which turned everywhere into a winter wonderland, but it did mean the tracks were quite soft and slow – and a strong wind didn’t help. For once I didn’t panic when I got a bit boxed in during the mass start, and gradually worked my way up. I felt strong and was pleased with my finish position of 46th.

Duringt he 10km skate time tiral in Falun.

During the 10km skate time trial in Falun.

After the races in Falun I had to head back to uni for two weeks, and am now in Slovakia for the World University Games. My main focuses are the two distance races – a 5km classic time trial and a 15km skate mass start. I promise a blog on these will follow shortly!

Ramsau

At the moment I’m in Ramsau, Austria, and am just over half way through our two week British Team training camp. I’ve been to Ramsau in the winter before but never in the summer, so I’m really enjoying having some new places to train.

Me and Alex out running

Me and Alex out running

We’ve done several on snow sessions up on the Dachstein glacier, which has been really fun. The glacier is at about 2700m altitude, so we’ve just been doing gentle sessions up there. The snow is in pretty decent condition, and the pisted loop takes about 45 minutes to ski, so we haven’t been getting too dizzy.

The cross country ski tracks on the Dachstein glacier on a sunny morning

The cross country ski tracks on the Dachstein glacier on a sunny morning

We’ve also been doing a mixture of running, rollerskiing and strength sessions, with some speed sessions and tough interval sessions in there. Yesterday we did 8 x 7 minutes level 4 skating, with around 850m total ascent during them – it was a hard but good session!

Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been great, and we’ve had a lot of wet training sessions. Before our elkhuff (ski bounding) interval session last week Sarah said that she likes training in the rain as it makes her feel tough, so we’ve all be feeling really tough this camp!

I don’t really have any photos of the rainy sessions as I don’t like to stop and get cold taking photos (or get my camera broken in the puddles that have been forming in my pockets) so here are some more photos from our drier sessions.

The tracks on the glacier with the impressive rock faces above it

The tracks on the glacier with the impressive rock faces above it

Sarah, Alex and Posy on the balcony of the gondala on the way up to the glacier.

Sarah, Alex and Posy on the balcony of the gondala on the way up to the glacier – a windy but fun way to get up to training

Running in the mountains.  We were filling the male/female stereotypes with our outfits - the girls were all wearing something pink or purple and Alex was wearing blue!

Running in the mountains. We were filling the male/female stereotypes with our outfits – the girls were all wearing something pink or purple and Alex was wearing blue!

Posy and Sarah on their way up

Posy and Sarah on their way up

The view from out chalet

The view from out chalet on our first morning – it was great to wake up to after arriving in the dark

Lysebotn Opp

Yesterday I raced the Lysebotn Opp, a 7.5km uphill rollerski race which was part of the Blink Ski Festival which is currently being held in Sandnes, Norway. It was one of the toughest but most fun races I’ve done!

All the athletes got to the race start on boats which was a first for me! It was a fun way to arrive, and also nice to be a bit of a tourist enroute.

Impressive cliffs on the Lysefjord

Impressive cliffs on the Lysefjord

The race started at Lysebotn, at sea level beside Lysefjord, and climbed 640m over the 7.5km course. There were lots of switchback corners, and a 1km long tunnel with minimal lighting which was interesting to race through. The race was boradcast live on Norwegian national TV, so there were several helicopters, quad bikes and cars whizzing around filming.

The route (screenshot from NRK)

The route (screenshot from NRK)

A lot of the best cross country skiers and biathletes in the world were racing – the start list consisted of large numbers of Norwegians, French, Germans and Finns. It was mass start, and the junior and senior women all raced at the same time which meant there were about 100 women racing which is quite unusual and really cool to be part of.

The womens' race a few hundred metres after the start

The womens’ race a few hundred metres after the start (screenshot from NRK)

I had on okay start, but lost a bit of time on the flat at the start as it was easy to get stuck behind people as it was so narrow. But after we hit the climb things got a lot better. I overtook a lot of people on the way to the top, and didn’t get overtaken by anyone.

There were a lot of people lining the road and cheering, making it an amazing atmosphere. They really helped me up the hill, as pretty much every part of me was hurting! When I saw the 500m to go sign, I got a little bit excited and started my big push for the line, forgetting how long 500m takes when you’re going up a really steep road. There was also a banner across the road 50m before the finish which I thought was the finish line. So by the time I crossed the finish line I was definitely ready to finish! I was really pleased with how it went, coming 22nd, ahead of quite a few people I didn’t expect to beat. Liz Stephen from the US won in impressive style – I’ve still got a bit of a way to go to keep up with her!

Me after the race, with the view back to where the start was

Me after the race, with the view back to where the start was

It was then fun to watch the men race up afterwards.

French skier Magnificant on his way to win the men's race

French skier Magnificant on his way to win the men’s race

Brit Andrew Musgrave racing to the top (furthest right skier with the orange helmet)

Brit Andrew Musgrave racing to the top (furthest right skier with the orange helmet)

As you can probably tell from how this blog is written, I had a really fun day, and hopefully will be back to race the Lysebton Opp again!

 

Hard summer training

Today is the end of a tough 3 weeks of training for me. Each week the hours I have trained has increased, and the volume of intervals which I’ve done has also increased. I’m pleased with how it’s gone but I was definitely in need of a rest day on the beach today!

A perfect rest day on the beach

A perfect rest day on the beach

Yesterday I did my first elkhuff (ski bounding with poles) intervals of the summer. They are one of my favourite sessions, but they are also one of the toughest! At the end of my session yesterday I was dripping with sweat and wasn’t sure what part of me was going to explode first – I had definitely been working hard! A patch of wild raspberries where I finished my intervals were a nice treat post intervals.

I’ve also been enjoying some of the long, gentle sessions that I’ve been doing. Last Sunday I did a 4.5hour run/hike with poles in the mountains nearby. I find that time flies by during long sessions like this when the scenery and terrain is constantly changing and the views are this good.

A view into the fjords from the top of my run

A view into the fjords from the top of my run

Some of the roads and cycle tracks around Stavanger have been resurfaced over the last couple of weeks, and are now perfectly smooth for rollerskiing. Unfortunately I did have an incident with a section of track which wasn’t fully finished – my rollerskis stopped and I continued going and landed flat on the tar. It was a bit of a slow motion crash and I only grazed my knees, but I ended up with a decent amount of tarry black sticky stuff over my arms and legs, which took a long time to get rid of in the shower (even with scrubbing pads intended for burnt pans!).

Taking high vis to a new level for rollerskiing!

Taking high vis to a new level for rollerskiing!

For the past few weeks I’ve been in the gym several times a week to do strength sessions. Up until the age of about 18 I couldn’t do any body weight pullups. The boys on our team used to do them so easily, and I made it my mission to be able to. I spent a lot of time using the weight assisted machines that you get in some gyms, and finally cracked it. I’ve been continuing to work on my upper body strength for the last few years as I think it is one of my weaknesses, and have been enjoying turning a few heads in the gym over the last few weeks when I’ve been adding over 10kg weight to my body weight for pullups and over 15kg for my tricep dips!

So things have been going well with training, I feel I’m making good progress and I’m really enjoying it all!

Enjoying exploring when my family came to stay

Enjoying exploring when my family came to stay

Sognefjell

So I’m just coming to the end of an easy week of training, which was very much needed after our British Team training camp in Sognefjell last week. Our camp is Sognefjell was great, and I’ve definitely been missing the sun, snow and skiing this week!

The view from the ski tracks in Sognefjell

The view from the ski tracks in Sognefjell

Our days in Sognefjell seemed to follow a very regular pattern: an early breakfast followed be a couple of hours skiing in the morning whilst the tracks were still nice and firm. On two mornings we did long level 3 (threshold) interval sessions and on two mornings we did speed (short sprint) sessions. After an early lunch (not early by Norwegian standards!) we had a bit of video feedback followed by an hour or so nap to recharge for an afternoon of technique work. After dinner we looked at video from the afternoon, and often watched a bit of the football World Cup, it’s just a shame England didn’t do so well!

The start of the ski tracks

The start of the ski tracks

There were two coaches and only four athletes on the training camp, which was ideal for getting lots of technique input and feedback. I’ve now got a long list of things to work on over the summer, but am also pleased with the progress I’m making.

Me and Posy during a speed session

Me and Posy during a speed session

I had a couple of eureka moments on the camp, where aspects of my skiing just seemed to come together and work, and feel totally natural all at the same time. It’s an amazing feeling to have, and it makes it feel like the hard work is paying off, but I do sometimes feel frustrated that these things hadn’t clicked sooner. Why hadn’t I learnt to do this last season?!

Sognefjell hytta where we stayed

Sognefjell hytta where we stayed

The skiing at Sognefjell is on a snow field at the top of a mountain pass. When the sun is out and the weather is nice, the conditions are incredible and you could ski all day in just shorts and tshirt. However when the weather is bad, and it’s windy or raining, it’s awful! Luckily we had lots of sun during our week, but I did manage to get sunburnt underneath my nose which was surprising sore.

My parents and sister have been to visit me this week, which has been really fun. We’ve been on several walks and adventures, and luckily the sunny weather has continued for them. Fingers crossed for some more for the next few weeks!

Me and my sister Heather at Preikestolen

Me and my sister Heather at Preikestolen

Exploring and orienteering

So I have now been in Norway for a month now, and I am really enjoying life here. The unseasonally good weather has definitely been helping, and I’ve been making the most of it whilst exploring new places to train.

Nice views whilst out running

Nice mountains close by to run in

And not a bad views either

And not a bad views either

I’ve spent a lot of time in Norway previously to train and race, but I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been fully living and working with Norwegians. So I’ve been gradually learning new things about Norway and Norwegian people and their habits,

–         Norwegians like to eat lunch early. For me 10:30 am would be a late or second breakfast, but for many of the Norwegians I’ve met this is a normal time for lunch! I don’t think I’ll be changing to this!

–         Speed limits on the roads are unbelievably low. And the speeding fines are unbelievably high (not that I’ve found this out personally!)

–         There are zebra crossings everywhere, and a pedestrian or cyclist only has to look at one for cars to slam on their brakes. This does seriously disrupt traffic flow, but it is handy when out rollerskiing on cycle paths.

–         Pretty much every Norwegian can speak amazing English, and it makes me realise how lazy we are as a nation at learning languages well.

–         All Norwegians are active and love the outdoors, and people don’t think that you’re weird if you do a lot of sport.

One of the things that confirmed this last point to me was taking part in an orienteering series the last two Wednesday evenings. (Orienteering involves using a map and compass to navigate between a set number of check points, as quickly as possible – so you run inbetween). I’d never done any orienteering before, but since I do a lot of fell running I decided it would be fun to give it a go. I wasn’t sure if my navigation would be up to it, and I knew I would probably end up going for an approach along the lines of briefly looking at where I needed to go on my map and then just bombing it as fast as I could and hope I ended up in the right place. Despite my attempts not to, I did end up falling into this approach the first week, and it didn’t really work. I ended up running round in lots of circles and spending a lot of time not knowing where I was. But the second week I nailed it, and worked out the trick is to look at the map and work out where you need to go, remember things you will pass enroute and work out how you know you will have reached the point you’re aiming for. Then you can run.

Anyway, my reason for mentioning orienteering is that there were 650 people taking part in the weekly orienteering series, ranging from juniors to over 80s. I thought this was great, and really enjoyed being part of it!

So today marks the start of the first British Team training camp of the 2014-2015 season. I arrived in Sognefjell this morning and am looking forward to a week of skiing on snow on the snow field. Fingers crossed for plenty more sun and blue skies!

Sognefjell - sun and snow

Sognefjell – sun and snow

Spring and the start of a new training year

Since my last blog, spring has been and gone, and summer is now here.

Like the majority of cross country skiers I took April as a rest month, to recover from a long busy season and to refuel for next season. The rest was definitely needed, but I do really miss training! I did do some bits of running and climbing, so the withdrawal symptoms weren’t too bad! It was nice to spend some time catching up with my family and to see lots of friends back home.

 

Catching up with my friends Hannah and Lauren in London

Catching up with my friends Hannah and Lauren in London

During April I did a geotechnical engineering placement in London, with a company called Geotechnical Consultancy Group. I’m just coming to the end of a year out inbetween my third and final year at university, so it was nice to get some practical experience with a very knowledgeable and respected company. I learnt a lot and had a lot of fun.

Mo Farah running in the London Marathon. It was fun to watch and cheer!

The London Marathon was on whilst I was in London. It was to watch and cheer for Mo Farah!

With the start of May came the start of the 2014-2015 training year. It’s been fun to get back into training again, and I’ve been doing a mixture of running, biking, rollerskiing and strength work in the gym. It always takes a while to get back into training, so I’ve had several mornings (normally after strength training) when I’ve woken up quite sore and have spent the day walking slightly strangely!

Nice countryside to be back training in at home

Nice countryside to be back training in at home

A week ago I came out to Stavanger, where I will be for 12 weeks this summer. I’m doing another geotechnical engineering placement, this time with the offshore company Subsea7. I am looking forward to learning a lot through it, as well as enjoying a summer training in Norway, close to the mountains, sea and fjords.

So far I’ve found some great places to rollerski and some really nice mountains to run in.

A nice beach I've rollerskied past

A nice beach I’ve rollerskied past

Today I did the 7-nuts (7-tops) fell race just outside Stavanger, which over 200 people took part in. This was the first race I’ve done since the end of the skiing season, and it was tough! It was really fun to be out racing in the mountains again, and the weather and the views were amazing.

The view of the final top from the car park. The views were amazing from the tops, but my camera didn't leave the car park.

The view of the final top from the car park. The views were amazing from the tops, but my camera didn’t leave the car park.

Me post race

Me post race

The race was 14km, with 900m of ascent. It took a fair bit longer than I expected as the terrain was really tough, with some very rocky descents and some scrambles up and down. Despite running out of energy a few km too early, I came 2nd women, which I’m pretty pleased with!

Covered in a combination of sweat, blood, mud and cow poo

Covered in a combination of sweat, blood, mud and cow poo

Having had a good first couple of weeks of training, I’m excited for the rest of summer, and am hoping for lots of sunny days to enjoy the mountains.